The new year will bring a significant strategic shift for the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which remains influential among U.S. conservative Protestants and has $371 million in assets.
Since 2000 the BGEA has been led by the great evangelist’s son Franklin, who kicks off the new look in Des Moines on Jan. 5.
That’s when Franklin launches his politically-tinged “Decision America Tour" series of prayer rallies that starts off in Iowa and includes the other early voting states of New Hampshire (Jan. 19) and South Carolina (Feb. 9). He plans to preach and tweet his way through all 50 states by Election Day.
Though Billy Graham has befriended politicians and uttered socio-political comments over the decades, his revival meetings always focused hard on appeals for attendees to personally accept Jesus Christ as their savior from sin or to renew such commitments. Franklin will likewise “preach the Gospel.” But he’ll also be urging the Lord’s people not only to pray for the nation but “take action” by being sure to register and vote at all levels of government, and to consider runs for office.
The campaign will also ask Americans to sign a pledge that “where possible” they’ll vote for candidates who “uphold biblical principles, including the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage.” Franklin cites these biblical proof texts: Psalm 139:13 and Proverbs 24:11 on abortion, Matthew 19:4-6 on marriage, and Proverbs 14:34 on civic duty.
Perhaps with the BGEA tax exemption in mind, Franklin won’t be endorsing specific candidates and presents the tour as non-partisan, declaring: